Miriam E. Tucker
Every person who uses insulin to manage diabetes wants what they don't have — a replacement for their malfunctioning pancreas. And though the technology isn't yet to the point of creating an artificial pancreas, it's getting a lot closer.
Just last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a mobile app-based system that can monitor a person's sugar levels remotely. Parents can monitor a child's sugar while she or he is in school, for example, providing greater peace of mind.
That technology is the latest step in an evolution aimed at letting people manage diabetes without the burden of calibrating insulin doses themselves. So far we have devices that deliver insulin and devices that continuously monitor blood sugar. Getting those two pieces of equipment to talk to each other would make the process safer and simpler. That's the technology that people really want. And that's starting to happen.
Because that technology is rolling out bit by bit rather than all at once, it makes more sense to call it an artificial pancreas "system," according to Aaron Kowalski, chief mission officer and vice president for research at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a top funder of research into the systems. The devices are "trying to replace mechanically what's lost in diabetes," Kowalski tells Shots.